Prices of fish dip amid bigger hauls

End of Malaysian ban on exports and lower demand are also factors

The red grouper or pomfret that you see at the market now costs a little less. Retail prices of fish have fallen in general, thanks in part to bigger hauls after the end of the monsoon season last month. Floods during this season usually disrupt supply chains and rough seas prevent fishermen from going out to sea.

Malaysia's ban on the export of seven types of fish and prawns to Singapore, due to fears of a local shortage, ended in February.

Lower demand during the Qing Ming festival has also dampened prices, said retailers. During the two-week-long festival, Singaporeans typically cook duck, chicken and pork, and not fish, to offer to ancestors.

Mr Lee Boon Cheow, 76, president of the Singapore Fish Merchants' General Association, said the wholesale prices of fish from the region - which make up about 70 per cent of fish consumed here - have fallen by about 20 per cent across the board in the past month.

"Prices will probably stay low till the end of (the) week," he said. "Then supply will go down again and prices will go back up."

This is because today, he said, marks the start of the Songkran festival in Thailand, when fishermen take a break for a few days.

Retailers - who change their prices according to the market - are adjusting prices downwards in turn. At supermarket chain Giant, the prices of several regional varieties of fish - batang, red grouper, selar and Chinese pomfret - have fallen by about 8 per cent in the past month as "current stocks are available in larger quantity... and demand is slower", said a spokesman.

At FairPrice supermarkets, such fish now cost up to 10 per cent less, compared with three months ago.

Mr Victor Chai, director of fresh and frozen products at FairPrice's purchasing and merchandising department, said the fall in prices could be due to several factors: weather, market sentiment and festive seasons.

"The slight dip in prices recently could be that during the Qing Ming festival period, some customers may purchase larger than usual amounts of meat, which might affect the demand for fish," he said.

Food cooked for ancestors is typically consumed by households after the ritual.

A Straits Times check at wet markets last Thursday found that fishmongers were charging less for popular varieties, including threadfin and batang.

"We follow suppliers' prices. So if they drop prices, we drop too," said Mr John Tan, a fishmonger at a wet market in Serangoon. He added that the lower prices attracted a few more customers. The 38-year-old was selling Chinese pomfret for $28 per kg, 12 per cent less than the price last month.

Housewife Lim Cai Xia, 59, was shopping for fish last Thursday. "I eat fish every day, so it's good that prices have dropped," she said.

Ms Yap Kian Yee, 44, who works in communications, said she did not even notice the difference.

"It's just a small drop in price, and I don't eat fish often. It's just savings of a few cents."

limjess@sph.com.sg